It’s easy to dismiss Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, a group whose myriad name changes have made them virtually Google-proof, as an auxiliary Godspeed You! Black Emperor ripoff. After all, they share three members with the infamous Montreal-based post-rock collective, as well as a penchant for wordy album titles and passionate, soul-searching crescendos.
But throughout Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything—the band’s seventh, and arguably best, LP—the group does everything in their power to distance itself from GY!BE’s smoke and mirrors aesthetic. “We live on the island of Montreal,” a child coos on the record’s opening moments, “and we make a lot of noise because we love each other.” Hardly the mission statement of a band famous for snubbing the Polaris Prize on an overtly politicized pedestal.
Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra la la Band – “Austerity Blues”
From the whispered refrain at the end of “Austerity Blues” to the violin punk of “Take Away These Early Grave Blues,” Fuck Off Get Free is unfettered by high concept manifestoes or social justice causes—they just want to make noise, and make noise they do. There’s a sense of spontaneity and chemistry between the band members that give the album the feel of a live concert, and the rough-around-the-edges production only heightens this quality.
However, this isn’t to say that Fuck Off Get Free is sloppy, or haphazardly structured. Each of the album’s six tracks have a unique atmosphere and dynamic—opening track “Fuck Off Get Free (For the Island of Montreal)” is like a radio static carnival ride, with lead vocalist Efrim Menuck’s Britpop vocals filling the role of the ringmaster. Later, album standout “What We Loved Was Not Enough” conjures Arcade Fire-esque catharsis, with a barbed wire guitar solo set against a stratospheric string section. No two songs are the same, yet each are linked by their grandiosity and gloriously uncool enthusiasm.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything (Full Album)
Lyrically, Fuck Off Get Free avoids the protest slogans of its sister project, but GY!BE’s trademark existential dread occasionally seeps through, such as in “Little Ones Run,” the album’s shortest and subtlest moment, wherein a child’s lullaby is rewritten for the nuclear holocaust—the sky is falling and and the moon is gone, but the crib is safe and warm. It’s a relief, then, that the record’s moments of melancholy are never maudlin or overly sentimental. Even the darkest tunnels of Fuck Off Get Free have a light at the end.
Though Fuck Off Get Free will inevitably seem like a niche record to some, the universality of its themes and expressions give it a nostalgic quality typically reserved for much older records. To listen is to relive your moments of grief, suffering, and euphoria in song. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra may be making music for themselves, but they’re also giving voice to crucial facets of the human condition—letting you know that, no matter who you are or where you’re going, you are not alone. As music listeners and as human beings, what more can we ask?
– Max Hill
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